Georgia history highlighted in Atlanta meeting

More than 30 members and guests gathered in Atlanta over the weekend of October 4, 2019 for our first ever meeting outside of the colonial area. Although Georgia was one of the 13 original colonies and had three signers, at the time it consisted almost entirely of Savannah and the outpost Augusta. The future Atlanta was nothing more than a couple of crossing trails deep in Creek Indian territory.

We chose a new hotel in Buckhead as our headquarters for its close proximity to our Saturday venue, the Atlanta History Center.  President-General Bruce Laubach chaired the board meeting Friday afternoon while others settled in and met both old and new friends.

Stepping next door for a Louisiana-style dinner Friday evening, Ed Croft gave us an overview on what to expect at the Atlanta History Center the next day, the centerpiece of which is the Cyclorama. Painted by German artists 22 years after the July 1864 Battle of Atlanta and first displayed in Minneapolis in 1886 before going on tour, the Cyclorama landed in Atlanta in the 1920s. The center raised $35 million to move and restore the 49-foot-tall painting, which is longer than a football field, in a newly constructed wing of the history center that opened in February 2019.

As a special surprise after dinner, new junior member Thornton Corkhill, the grandson of Thornton and Carol Marshall of Huntington, N.Y., was presented with a cake celebrating his ninth birthday.

The next morning, everyone was treated to a unique 19th and 21st century multimedia experience. Originally designed as a grand depiction of the crucial Battle of Atlanta to tour the country, it was often modified to reflect local tastes. In Chattanooga, for example, captured Confederates were repainted in blue to suggest a Confederate victory. Later, near life-size figures and landscaping were added to give a 3-D effect. One of those figures, a dead Yankee, was later repainted to resemble Clark Gable after he complained that the only thing wrong with the painting was that he wasn’t in it.

Today, the painting is restored to its original size and form. The audio-visual overlay provides the sounds of battle and narrative about how the painting has been interpreted over the years since the war. A spectacular window on an evolving history.

Following the Cyclorama, we gathered for a group photo in front of the Texas train engine displaying the DSDI banner. Also recently restored, the Texas was the chase engine in the 1862 Andrew’s Raid when Yankee raiders hijacked the engine General. That event may be better remembered from Disney’s “The Great Locomotive Chase” with Fess Parker.

Lunch and the general meeting followed in the Members Room. My favorite part of the general meeting is always the competition of the roll call and this was no exception as William Hooper descendants swept the field with 7!

That evening our outstanding dinner speaker was historian and author Dr. Paul M. Pressly, who revealed the roles of Georgia and her three signers during the war. One, Button Gwinnett, was killed in a duel with a fellow officer, and none have any descendants. The locals were surprised and gratified to learn that Georgia was not in fact a penal colony as we had all been taught, but instead James Oglethorpe’s vision of a colony of hard-working yeoman farmers. Afterwards, Paul was presented a very well-earned DSDI Jefferson Cup by Bruce Laubach and Nancy Wark gave us a glimpse of the coming spring meeting in Princeton.